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Jun 15, 2012 7:43 PM

Living Younger Longer: Preventive care, sedentary lifestyles, and healthier dads

TUCSON - On today's "Living Younger, Longer," Dr. Lori Mackstaller from the Sarver Heart Center stopped by to discuss some of the day's top medical stories.

Preventive care

A new study looks at the number of U.S. adults who received preventive care prior to the "Affordable Care Act" of 2010.

More than a third of men and a quarter of women hadn't had a cholesterol screening in the past five years, and less than half of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure had it under control.
Researchers hope to compare the numbers to health care services received after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, to see how it changed preventive care.

Sedentary lifestyle

Americans aren't the only couch potatoes - a new study examined worldwide data on physical activity dating back to the 1960s.

As children and adults in the U.S. have increasingly spent more time in front of televisions and computers, so have those living in China, India, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
In particular, there's been a large decrease in physical activity at work. Experts blame computers, and less physical exertion on the job.

Healthier dads

Men, if you can survive 3 a.m. feedings, the troubled teen years, and the pressures of providing for a family -- you may actually reap important health benefits from fatherhood.

Psychologist and father of two girls, Dr. Scott Bea, says even though men don't automatically reap the same physical benefits of parenthood that women do (including lowered risks for heart disease and some cancers), they can benefit physically and emotionally.

"We are more active in our lives, we have generally better health, better coping strategies, and experience less frequent bouts of clinical depression," Dr. Bea said.

Increased physical activity is a major component of the health benefit of fatherhood. Think of little league coaching, backyard baseball, even wrestling on the living room floor.

"Not only is that good for you physically, but it keeps you kind of joyful," Dr. Bea said. "For us fathers, it allows us to be a kid again."

And there's nothing like a kid to help boost mood.

"Having a one-year-old jump up and down or smile at you when you walk through the door is the surest way to forget the stress of your work day," said Professor Brad Harrington with the Boston College Center for Work & Family.

A father of three and family life expert, Harrington makes a living studying fathers. His recent survey of stay-at-home dads showed the men have an incredibly strong bond with their children.

"It's a sense of connection that the vast majority of fathers never get to experience to the level that these stay-at-home dads do," Harrington says.

"It's our best chance to give, best chance for us to be nurturing," says Dr. Bea.

The rewards of fatherhood extend, of course, beyond biology, to step- and adoptive dads, as well.
In a recent study from Boston College, more than three-quarters of devoted dads said they wanted to spend more time with their children.


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